According to the US Census Bureau, 17.2 million households are headed solely by single mothers. However, this graphic doesn’t account for how many of the two-parent households are headed by a formerly single mom and a stepfather which would increase that 17.2 million figure of households containing single mothers.
Considering that this phenomenon of being a single mother is not new to Generation X and later generations, you would reasonably assume it to be better understood; a scroll down many social media timelines will show you it’s not. This article will define exactly what it is to be a single mother, look at the real numbers and statistics behind single mothers, and dispel some of the myths surrounding single motherhood.
What, exactly, IS a single mother?
Among social communities, the term “single mother” is most commonly attributed to mothers who never married and are not currently coupled with their child(ren) ‘s father. However, the Webster’s definition has far less distinction. It classifies a single mother as any mother (single, divorced, widowed, or otherwise) without a mate. Whichever definition you choose to accept, it’s safe to say that a woman falls out of the “single mother” realm once she is coupled with a mate. Also, a widowed or divorced single mother is, more often than not, more accepted than a single mother who never married.
How Do Women Find Themselves In This Situation?
Many people assume that the majority of single mothers are promiscuous, never married women who either don’t know how to keep a man or are so overly independent that they feel they don’t need a man. The pure ignorance of actual facts and statistical data that fuels these misconceptions are compounded when the uninformed are given tools, such as social media, to help generously (and often quite proudly) spread this type of misinformation. While many may be surprised to find out that never-wed mothers actually make up a little less than half of all statistical single mothers (44% to be exact), guess who already knew better……..the other 56% of single mothers.
So what about that 44%?
When analyzing the 44% of never wed single mothers, take into account that only 36% of Gen Xers and even fewer Millennials OVERALL are married between the ages of 18-32 (The “childbearing years”). This is due to changing attitudes about marriage. Gen Xers and Millennials legitimately question the need to marry as reported by THIS article posted by Bentley University. It’s not surprising considering that 52.7% of marriages end in divorce. Therefore, many of the never wed single mothers shown in the statistics were in long-term relationships with their child(ren)’s father, although they never married.
Where are these fathers?
Another thing the studies don’t take into account is the number of unwed mothers who lost their child(ren)’s father to the justice system (The United States houses 25% of the WORLD prison population) or those whose mates were lost to untimely deaths. Taking all of these things into consideration, even the never wed single mother population can’t all be lumped into one category defined by one set of attributes. Not intelligently anyway.
What about the divorcees?
When it comes to divorced and separated single mothers, there are a number of complex reasons as to why they have found themselves in this particular situation. Women who prefer to be more traditional were often raised to believe that one day your prince will come, sweep you off your feet, and you will live happily ever after. Marriage was considered a final destination, your very own happily ever after. However, nowhere in the many “Happily ever after” stories you’ve read as a child did it tell you that your prince, no matter how well you believe you know him before marriage, could possibly turn out to be a frog long after the kiss.
Sometimes things just don’t work out
What happens when you find out that all of those cute little things your husband used to do before marriage and all of the things you had in common were was all just a facade. What happens when that facade doesn’t fall away until after marriage, or he maybe he just made a drastic change. What then? Once you catch the hubby with the help or worse your best friend, what’s the proper protocol? When you realize that your husband has a well-hidden gambling problem that has now become apparent thanks to the shambles your joint finances are in, what’s supposed to happen next?
Everyone loves to make ridiculous statements like “There had to be some sign before you got married.”, “You two should have gotten to know each other better.” or the all-time favorite “You need to make better decisions when it comes to choosing a mate” But the fact is, there are actually serial killers, rapists, embezzlers, etc. on record whose families had known them their ENTIRE lives, and still never suspected what they were capable of. Yet a woman is supposed to know after a year or two of dating?
If there is any sign whatsoever that a man will make a child outside of the marriage, that he secretly likes little kids in the wrong way, or that he’s going to develop a killer cocaine addiction that is going to completely bankrupt the family, no woman in her right mind would marry him. How long do you have to be with someone to “know them better”? 1, 2, or 3yrs? Who sets the standard? One thing you will find with people who are the most judgmental and opinionated about your situation (however you came to it), is that they rush to judge you. They do so to make themselves feel better about their own skeletons.
They won’t care about the actual statistics, or your individual circumstances, They NEED to be able to point a finger and say “At least I’m not in THAT situation” although you may look at THEIR situation and not wish it on your worst enemy. No one knows your individual circumstances better than you, and since most women don’t wake up and declare “I think I’d like to be a single mother”, it’s far more than likely that it’s not a position you ever wanted to be in and would have avoided if possible.
#1. “My tax dollars are paying to care for the food stamps and medical insurance for children of single mothers while they sit on their butts doing nothing.”
There are two parts to busting this myth. Firstly, while single mothers definitely do account for the majority of all households living in poverty (52%), less than half (45.8%) actually receive welfare benefits. Within that 45.8% who receive welfare benefits, only 23.2% are actually unemployed the entire year. Now that you understand that this statement, in part, only applies to 23.2% of all single moms, on to part two of busting this misconception.
Since we’ve already established that 76.8% of single mothers are actually a part of the workforce just like you, then it goes without saying that just as your tax dollars are applied toward Safety Net programs like “welfare” so are theirs. Furthermore, you would be surprised just how little of your, and working single mothers’, tax dollars actually make it into the Safety Net budget.
Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry, Kate Winslet, Nia Long, Katie Couric, Kandi Burrus, Liv Tyler, and Sheryl Crow are just a few of the women (The most well-known examples) who would assuredly laugh at the notion that single mothers only date for help. All of these women are or have been single mothers at some point in time. While these are celebrities, and some may consider them exceptions to the rule, they are actually on par for the course. Just as statistics show that 76.8% of single mothers are working, many of these working single mothers are stable.
Single mothers have established and maintained a household on their own for quite some time, and are simply looking for the same thing any other single person is looking for….companionship. Single mothers have raised actresses like Angelina Jolie and Kate Beckinsale, actors like Keanu Reeves and Pierce Brosnan, rap stars like Kanye West and Jay Z, athletes like Michael Phelps and Shaquille O’Neal, and even former US President Barack Obama. While being a single mother is not ideal, you would be foolish to believe they are looking for a savior. They can and will do it on their own if necessary, however, it is a natural human behavior to desire companionship.
#3 Single mothers are to blame for every ill the world currently faces.
Any sane person knows this is far from true, so it will be addressed briefly as a courtesy for the not so swift. First, let’s address the fact that single mother and absentee father need not be synonymous. A father has a duty to raise his child whether or not he is in a relationship with the child’s mother. This means his influence SHOULD still be instrumental in this child’s life. If he does become an absentee father, let’s stop giving these men a pass. The actions of a voluntarily absentee father do not fall on the mother, no matter how you try to spin it. That’s HIS decision, hold him accountable for it.
Secondly, an in-depth look at the world’s most prolific killers will show you they all came from two-parent households. Nathan Bedford Forrest (The first Grand Wizard of the KKK) came from two-parent households. Adolph Hitler (Leader of Nazi Germany) came from a two-parent household. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (The Columbine Highschool shooters) were both born to two-parent households. The list goes on.
Do studies show that a child is more likely to be well-adjusted in a two-parent household? Yes, but those same studies don’t display data gathered from households where having two parents in the home still resulted in children becoming psychotic menaces to society or those homes that left the children irreversibly mentally scarred for life. ANY decent parent, married or single, is going to do their absolute best to raise a child to become a respectable, responsible, productive adult. It’s what we all want most for our children. Stop using single mothers as scapegoats. Doing so means the REAL issues get skirted and remain unaddressed.
You can’t lump it all together
There are many reasons for and circumstances that lead to becoming a single mother. This trend is not new to Generation X and millennials, and it’s actually one that is growing for various reasons. Become better educated about single motherhood. Stop trying to shame mothers into staying in emotionally, mentally, and/or physically detrimental relationships out of fear of being judged by society for becoming a single mother.
Clean out your own closet before pointing fingers, and remember whenever you point one, three are pointing back at you. Single mothers, I salute you. Keep doing your thing, live for you and yours, and to heck with those itching to try to make you feel less than. Keep your head up ladies